Should Christians be motivated by rewards?

Well, should we? Should being in unbroken fellowship with the triune God for all eternity be our sole motivation as we go about our earthly lives? Randy Alcorn was interviewed about his book The Treasure Principle on episode 242 of The Boundless Show podcast. Following is an edited transcript of what he said on the matter:

[From timestamp 32:04]

We might say, “Well, wait, that sounds mercenary. We should never be motivated by reward.” Actually, we’re wired to be motivated by reward. And of course, we should not think that heaven will be a reward for a life well-lived as if we could do good things that could earn our way to heaven. Christ has earned our way to heaven, there’s only one way to get into heaven: that’s by trusting in his merit, his righteousness and not in ours.

But, God nonetheless says to his children, “Now here’s what I want for you: I want to reward you. And I’m going to look at your giving, and I’m going to look at the way you use your time, and one day at the end of your life, I’m going to say, ‘Well done my good and faithful servant,’” hopefully, if it has indeed been well done, “‘enter into your master’s joy,’ and I’m going to give you the rewards that I think are fitting to the labour that you have done to serve me.” And that is just exciting.

[From timestamp 37:23]

And also, just to address this idea that I know goes through people’s minds, the mercenary problem, because I have people say this to me all the time: “Rewards? We shouldn’t want rewards; we should just want to be with Jesus.”

Well, first of all, it’s the Bible that tells us that we should want rewards: the apostle Paul, the words of Jesus. An analogy that I use is back when my daughters—who are now 33 and 31, and I have 5 grandsons now. Suppose when they were back in high school, that I’d said to them, “Okay girls, this Saturday we’re going to have a family workday.” To which I know they would have said, “Oh boy, that sounds like fun!” “But we’re going to have a family workday, and at the end of that day I’m going to pay you both $60 or whatever and then I’m going to take you out to a nice dinner at the restaurant of your choice.”

Now if I tell them this, do I want them to look forward to being paid the $60 or going to the restaurant of their choice? Of course I want them to look forward to it. But suppose instead I said to the girls, we’re going to have a workday on Saturday. And then my girls get together and they say, “Well, Dad, we’ve talked it over and we decided that unless you’re willing to pay us $60 and take us out to a nice dinner, we’re not going to do that workday thing.” How would I feel if they said that?

What’s the difference between those two things? There’s a huge difference. If reward was our idea, it would be a bad idea. We don’t even deserve to go to heaven, what are we doing talking about wanting to be rewarded? But the whole point is: it’s not our idea, it’s God’s idea, and God takes pleasure in the idea of rewarding us his children. So let’s not deny God of that pleasure, let’s celebrate the fact that it’s His idea, and He’ll take delight in our wanting what he’s offered in terms of reward, just as I would take delight in my daughters wanting what their Dad has offered them.

TL;DR: Yes.

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